At the end of my very first Smash recap, I asked whether readers found themselves rooting for Karen or Ivy. It was a legitimate question; according to the show’s pilot, both characters were talented, likeable, and deserving. But tonight, Smash started bending over backwards to get us to favor Karen over Ivy – and I’m worried about what’ll happen if the show continues down this path.
In “The Cost of Art,” sweet Ivy suddenly transformed into a catty, cruel diva hellbent on making Karen miserable. As if that weren’t enough, the rest of the ensemble immediately got in on the act, sneering about Karen’s corn pone roots (like they’re not all from Trenton or White Haven, PA) and telling her that everything from her clothes to the way she walks into the rehearsal space is wrong. (I was just waiting for one of them to say her outfit was country, and she looked country in it.) Smash’s creators are clearly smart, and it seems like they want their show to appeal to an equally savvy audience. I wish, then, that they’d stop making the beats of their story so anvilicious. Ambiguity is good! We’ll be invested in the series even if it has no obvious heroes or villains. Heck, I think that’d actually make us more invested in the series.
Granted, Megan Hilty is doing her best to make Ivy’s attitude seem like the result of deep insecurity rather than inexplicable bitchiness. That should at least keep her character from becoming irredeemable. Tonight’s ending – in which Derek gives his leading lady some much-needed tough love – also gave me hope for Smash’s future. Still, I wish this unconventional, potentially awesome show were truly brave enough to reject a plot line as boring and predictable as “small-town girl overcomes endless obstacles, including an entitled enemy.”
Okay, rant over. As tonight’s episode opens, rehearsals for Marilyn are finally getting underway. Even though the show’s book is about as finished as this basement. Suspension of disbelief, people! After Julia endures an unwelcome encounter with Terrible Ellis and an incredibly awkward conversation with ex-lover Michael, The New Ivy enters, swathed in both The Sparkly Scarf of Triumph and a pair of celebrity-in-training shades. After Derek announces her arrival, Marilyn’s cast erupts in an ovation that lasts longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage. Hey, did you know that Ivy is beloved, while Karen is all on her own? No? Don’t worry; it’ll be reinforced a few dozen more times.
After the gang runs through “20th Century Fox Mambo,” beefy chorus member Sam – you may recognize the actor, Leslie Odom, Jr., from CSI: Miami or Red Tails – tells Karen that she’s got a great voice. She humbly explains that she already knows the song, since she sang it in her Marilyn callback. Then Ivy swoops up behind Sam and says, in a faux-sweet voice, “Well, I’m singing it now.” Ugh. See what I mean?
NEXT: “I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl,” or, “When You Got It, Flaunt It”